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Conference Sessions

International Law in a fluid world / Le droit international dans un monde en mouvement

81st Biennial ILA Conference

Athens │ 25-28 June 2024

International law constantly evolves, moves forward; but in what direction and who contributes thereto? What does moving forward mean? Ever expanding and progressing towards a liberal ideal or shrinking in front of insurmountable challenges and forces that undermine the international legal order? And which fields showcase more pertinently the dilemmas that international law is encountering? The 2024 Biennial Conference purports to launch a multilevel discussion regarding the future of international law: perennial questions surrounding state sovereign and challenges of international law’s enforcement are today accentuated by urgent crisis: climate change, populism. War, economic inequalities, backlash regarding the protection of human rights, revival of the domestic affairs mantra, corruption, international law faces increasingly serious risks. Yet at the same time, this move forward reflects a more diversified and inclusive legal order: new actors (civil society, local authorities, the international community as a whole), new lawmaking methods (best practices, model laws and guidelines) and new means of enforcement confirm the relevance and robustness of the international legal order.

The Conference seeks to showcase new practices and innovative research in various fields of international law, such as the sources doctrine, state sovereignty, international human rights law, international economic law, international environmental law, jus ad bellum and jus in bello etc. New tendencies, such as the greening of energy law or the gendering of human rights protection, will be highlighted. In this framework, the 2024 Biennial Conferences launches a Call for Papers on 4 specific angles of the general Conference theme.

1. Greening International Economic And Energy Law: New Paths

As nations seek to balance their pursuit of prosperity with the imperative to mitigate climate change and preserve exhaustible natural resources, the legal framework that governs States’ economic relations and global energy governance comes increasingly under stress. This Panel will discuss the fluid relationship of international environmental law with international economic law instruments, and the multifaceted challenges that States face in seeking a transition to a ‘greener’ economy and cleaner energy sources. In the field of international trade law, despite the inclusion of sustainable development and the protection of the environment in the preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement, the WTO does not explicitly accommodate environmental considerations within the scope of its core obligations. Regulatory initiatives aiming at promoting the use of renewable energy and preventing carbon leakage, such as green subsidies, carbon charges, and border adjustment mechanisms, create tensions with States’ obligations under the WTO Agreements. Although there is increasing recognition of the need to integrate environmental considerations into preferential trade agreements, the efficacy and implementation of relevant provisions is contested. In the field of foreign investment protection, stringent domestic environmental regulations and screening mechanisms may clash with the obligations of host-States under applicable investment treaties.

To what extent are international economic law instruments equipped to adjust to the environmental crisis? Is the use of exceptions and defences the only way forward for States to adopt restrictive economic measures aiming at a greener economy? Can international economic law instruments facilitate the equitable distribution of the costs and benefits of transitioning to green economies? What is the role of transnational corporations and their responsibilities in the context of sustainability? Is WTO dispute settlement and ISDS the right forum for the discussion of environmental issues? Can international economic law facilitate the implementation and enforcement of international obligations relating to the environment? Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive reevaluation of the relevant legal instruments and institutions, as well as innovative policy solutions.

2. The Future of International Humanitarian Law

As our global landscape continues to evolve dynamically, this Panel aims to foster interdisciplinary discussions among international lawyers, scholars, and practitioners on the challenges and opportunities facing the future of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Contributors are encouraged to examine the adaptability of IHL in the face of contemporary challenges and propose innovative, future-oriented approaches to address these evolving complexities.

For this panel we welcome papers that address a wide array of topics within the overarching theme. Potential areas of exploration include, but are not limited to: IHL-making in the 21st century; The emerging role of non-state actors in the making and implementation of IHL; The use of new technologies in contemporary armed conflicts; The interplay between IHL and other branches of international law; New domains of warfare and the relevance of IHL; The evolving nature of urban warfare; IHL and the triple planetary crisis; Strengthening the accountability mechanisms for violations of IHL.

This Panel seeks to facilitate a diverse and inclusive dialogue, encouraging submissions from scholars at various stages of their careers, legal practitioners, and policymakers. Accepted papers will contribute to shaping the discourse surrounding the future of IHL, offering insights that can inform legal frameworks and policy decisions in our increasingly fluid world.

3. Gendered Perspectives in International Law: Ways Forward

The theory and practice of public international law has traditionally been shaped by male voices. While feminist legal theories and the advocacy of women’s rights have been begun to redress this imbalance, there is still significant ground to be covered to ensure that international legal frameworks address the diverse experiences and challenges faced by women and individuals of all genders. In this call we invite papers that flesh out both the theoretical and practical challenges facing international law including, but not limited to, the following: Reimagining Feminist Legal Theory in the Context of Public International Law; Intersectionality in International Law; Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights; International Courts and Gender; Emerging Issues in LGBTQ+ Rights on the Global Stage; Gender and Climate Change; Challenges and Opportunities in Implementing International Gender Norms.

This panel invites new approaches to the concept of gender and how it will be applied and shape our understanding of international law in the future.

4. Global South/Global North: Moving Forward

The concepts of the ‘Global North’, the ‘Global South’ and the perceived ‘divide’ between them have emerged over the last decades as key go-to indicators or conceptual tools to unpack and/or criticize an increasingly unequal international order faced with collective, wicked problems, ranging from environmental degradation to forced migration as a result of conflict. The idea of a ‘divide’ has not gone uncontested. Critics have argued that the constant reshifting of power on a global scale means that we need analytical tools of a far finer grain. The ‘divide’ may be too crude or simplistic, as is the case with the idea of a unitary, homogeneous ‘Global North’ or ‘South’. Conversely, it is hard to miss the resilience of the Global North/Global South divide-speak on an international level, evidenced in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resultant disparity in access to vaccination.

Indeed, the Global North/Global South divide has manifested itself in many guises in international legal scholarship. The Global North/Global South divide has first and foremost served as a methodological tool, seeking to expose the architecture of international law, its persisting colonial, capitalist legacies, and overbearing inequalities. It is also a call to arms for rethinking international law, in the direction of a just, participatory, inclusive world order, capable of addressing pressing global issues of common interest. The Global North/Global South divide has been used as a lens to examine various international law areas, including international trade, environmental, investment, human rights, migration and refugee law, as well as the sources of international law and modes of dispute settlement. Finally, the Global North/Global South divide speaks to the hidden hierarchies and exclusion mechanisms of our international legal profession. In order to sustain a Global South critique, it is imperative that the voice of the Global South is equally represented in academia and practice, and that barriers to such representation be lifted.

The organizers invite submissions:

  • on the historical pedigree of the Global North/Global South divide in international law, focusing on the decolonization period
  • on the conceptual demarcation and continued relevance of the concept
  • on the relationship between the concept and TWAIL, postcolonial/decolonial, and Marxist approaches to international law
  • on the manner in which Global North/Global South discourse has shaped areas of international law, including but not limited to international environmental law, the law of the sea, refugee law, human rights and investment arbitration law

The organizers would be especially interested in submissions centering on the existence of a divide in international legal academia and its impact on international scholarship.


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